It is always difficult settling back into student life, particularly if you’ve spent a few years within the ‘real world’ before pursuing your chosen course of postgraduate study.
The benefit of this is that while studying your programme, the diversity of your course-mate’s experience will mean that you not only learn from the tutors, but also from your peers. On the other hand, after a few years of excitement working in your chosen industry, settling in to a life of academia can be tough.
So how exactly do you make the transition from employed worker to postgraduate student?
1. Develop a routine
One of the benefits of employment (apart from the salary) is that the majority of jobs require a certain amount of structure. With university study, each day is different and the lack of routine can often mean that students find it difficult to function.
Of course, there are ways and means of limiting the impact that this has upon your studies. You should develop your own personal timetable allocating specific times for eating, sleeping, studying, attending lectures and for socialising. It also helps to have a specific bed time, and a set time for waking up every morning.
2. Get involved in uni life
While the lack of routine can be off-putting, one of the great aspects of being a student (again) is the social life that comes attached with a postgraduate course. The majority of students on a postgraduate course will have similar interests and often there will be a number of social activities organised through the course, or through University Social Clubs.
If you really want to embrace student life, then you should get actively involved in University Societies. Not only does this allow you to meet new people and (hopefully) make new friends, but it will also look good on a CV.
3. Make the most of work experience opportunities
One of the great things about a postgraduate course is that students are often encouraged to seek work experience within their chosen sectors. This will increase your employability after graduation and will also provide you with a greater insight into your chosen industry.
If you’re finding any aspect of your course difficult or you need career advice, then the people you will be on work experience with – particularly the younger staff – could prove to be an amazing source of knowledge. Like you, they may have studied on a related course. They will be able to share their experiences and pass on knowledge that they learnt while at University or while interning.
Similarly, taking advantage of a work placement allows you the opportunity to network and will also ensure that you have a strong reference from an industry leader when you need to start looking for work.
4. Focus on your academic writing
Whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to embrace the world of academic writing. Yes, as well as your lectures and classroom session, most postgraduate courses require students to write a number of essays on a broad range of subject areas.
If you’re out of practice, then this is likely to be one of the more difficult tasks required of you. However, your tutors are there to help you, so it is often worthwhile asking them to read over drafts of your work in order to ensure that you are on the right path.
At the beginning of the course, you are also likely to be given a list of assessment objectives that your assignments will be marked on. Keep this in mind while you are writing the essay. What is it that your tutors are looking for? Have you answered the question properly?
5. Keep an eye on your money
You’ve probably taken out a loan to pay for your studies, so get used to being poor for the foreseeable future. It might sound depressing, but you no longer have a steady income, so say goodbye to champagne cocktails and fancy dinners out and hello to nights at the pub followed by a takeaway pizza.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, and fun isn’t a total no-go area, but it is important that you keep a keen eye on your money. Of course, if you’re living with a number of other people, you can buy in bulk which will keep costs down, and your student card will also entitle you to a number of discounts at retail stores and on public transport.
Whatever it is you need to buy, make sure that you shop around or even search for online vouchers that entitle you to discounts on certain products. If you’re vigilant, then money shouldn’t become too much of a problem.
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